4 ways business writing is like mountain biking

Hands on your handlebars or on your laptop, you’re in the wilderness

1. It’s better and cheaper to take pounds off the rider than it is to take ounces off the bike.

Hang around with mountain bikers for any length of time and the conversation will swing toward the latest and greatest bike technology: The swiftest, smoothest, lightest gear and components to add to your ride. Obsess, much? Mountain bikers do. They’re all about using the best technology possible to ease the strain of mountain biking.

Lighter = better. New components are cool. They’re also pricey and for that extra expense, you subtract sometimes a few ounces off the weight of your bike.

The smarter path to being a better, speedier rider is to get out there and ride, ride, ride. Ride a lot, ride hard and eat smart. Lose a few (or maybe more than a few) pounds off your body and the overall effect becomes way more advantageous than investing in a new gear set that shaves four ounces off of your bike’s weight.

Professional communicators can also obsess about the latest technology: content management systems, publishing platforms, sharing platforms, social media marketing, devices … sound familiar? As with mountain biking, tech is cool, but just get out there and do it. Soon, the must-have tech will either surface as the best solution to serve your growing skill set or it will fade into the background as a must-have that really kinda wasn’t.

Make peace with the prevailing systems and devices. Use them; get comfortable working in them. Make the mistakes that you can only learn from by doing. When you’re a lean, mean writing machine that’s hit the technology wall, then go get that new whatchamacallit. You will be ready for each other.

2. Don’t stare at the obstacle on the trail. Look 10 feet beyond it.

On the trail, the surest way to hit an obstacle you don’t want to hit is to stare right at it. Try it; it’s true. The best way to keep moving forward on two wheels is to keep your sights set ahead.

Business writers always have obstacles: deadlines, editors, sources, clients from hell, the tyranny of the blank page, clients from south of hell, jargon, etc. Sometimes the requirements for business copy suck the life out of what it could be, whether it’s an advertisement, web copy, executive communications, reports, strategic plans and more. It does you no good to hate the assignment.

Write what you think works. Make it good by your standards. Then, if necessary, go back and plug in the other requirements that may be foisted upon you. Make sure your good copy gets a fighting chance first by believing in your own worth; your own take on the topic. Look beyond the requirement details — make it work for you.

3. Not knowing where you are going is part of the fun.

Mountain biking is by definition outdoors. There are virtually endless trails to attack from the saddle. Even if you’re familiar with a trail or course, you still won’t have every nuance, every detail memorized. Time creates new ruts, exposed rocks, roots and downed trees. To mountain bike is to expect the unexpected challenge — you don’t always know what is coming next.

Trust me, on a long uphill, you don’t want to know what is next much of the time. The belief that your current agony may soon end around the next curve is often the only thing that can keep you going.

To write is to embrace the unknown. You may have an idea of what you’re going to say, but every new written creation takes the writer and the reader somewhere else, if it’s doing its job.

Most business writing is collaborative due to the hierarchy of the organization. There will be a review process that will reveal new thoughts and insights that the sole writer will likely not come up with alone. Be open to new ideas in your writing and practice accepting change throughout the process. Fighting every change isn’t fun for anyone.

4. You’re gonna crash.

No matter what kind of two-wheeled device you’re on, it’s not a matter of “if” you’ll crash, but “when.” And if you’re me, that will be sooner than later. I crash a lot. Not bragging, obviously. Rocks and trees win every collision.

Business writing is the same. You will not please 100 percent of your audience. It doesn’t happen. Moreover, if you’re not being rejected as an independent contributor, your goals are set too low. You need to stretch your abilities and aim perhaps a little farther than you’ve gone before.

Rejection isn’t fun. Neither is being stuck in a rut, like any mountain biker or professional writer can tell you.

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Julian Rogers is a freelance writer, communications consultant and owner of Juju Eye Communications. Follow him on Twitter (@thejujueye), or connect with him on LinkedIn.